Due to the crisis caused by COVID-19, the Government of the Republic of Croatia issued a decision on March 16. 2020. to interrupt classic in-person education in classrooms, as well as all other activities in schools. Since then, “distance learning”, popularly called “online teaching”, has begun. The purpose of this text is not a thorough analysis or critique of the existing way of holding such classes, but to present my personal insight, as a parent and as an ICT expert, as well as provide ideas for improvement of delivering online classes.
As a parent of two students, one in elementary school, and the other in high school, I share with (most of) other parents all the problems, worries, effort, and fears. I agree with the number of parents that our children need, now more than ever, our help, not only with technology but also to find motivation and encouragement for learning online.
Although one can say that a lot of things can be done better, but when you look at everything, I am grateful, as a parent, that the teaching was delivered online, with the huge effort of all people involved!
My opinion is that there was simply no alternative to this, especially after the long teachers strike in the first part Q4 of the calendar year 2019, after which, the devastating earthquake strikes Zagreb (March 2020), in which many schools/educational institutions were permanently damaged/unusable or students founded themself without a home.
As an ICT expert, I have been involved in raising the standard of teaching using ICT technology for more than 16 years through various international projects, as well as the fact that I am in private and business contact with educators and parents in other countries – I can conclude first hand that Croatian education, compared to others, responded well to this challenge, positioning itself at the very top of the list of European countries in the implementation of online teaching. I am talking here about the fact that the Croatian education system responded to this challenge before and better than the education systems of countries such as Germany, France, and Slovenia – which started 2-3 weeks behind Croatia in online teaching.
The purpose of this article is not to defend or support anything that might, perhaps, be better, nor to defend anyone. Personally, I could share similar comments from parents who see a lot of problems and shortcomings in the implementation and conduct of online classes. But personally, I think now is not the time for that. It is now extremely important that all of us (who can, want, and know this) help not to lose this school year, and successfully conduct online education of pupils and students. Of course, I think it is important to record all the good and bad things, so that, after this state of emergency is over, an expert evaluation can be conducted to see what we have all learned from this experience, analysis, as a basis for future process improvement.
It is completely clear to me, from personal experience, that the current situation requires a lot of effort from educators and students, but also parents, especially those who now work from home not 8, but 10-16 hours a day and have to fit in that time and help children, often without adequate equipment and communication infrastructure.
However, I have to say that significant improvements in the online teaching process have been seen, that some things are becoming a new routine, that things are not standing still, and that all participants in the process have understood their role. Although there are a large number of comments from students and parents on the choice of online tools for the preparation and implementation of teaching, I would like to remind you of the popular proverb: “It is not light weapons that fight, but the heart of the hero!”, but the motivation of both teachers and students is much more important than the choice of tools. Of course, everyone would like online teaching to be better methodically prepared and done, systematized, standardized, etc., but we must not forget that there was very little time to prepare for this crisis. A lot of teachers did not have the opportunity to hold online classes before this crisis. I note that this is not only about the knowledge of using the technique, but also about the teaching methodology, and even gaining experience and practice!
So, in my opinion, the biggest challenge that now needs to be seriously and persistently addressed is maintaining the level of motivation of all participants in the process, mostly students, especially classroom teaching, as well as ensuring fair and correct evaluation of their knowledge, commitment and effort. It’s yet to come and it’s something that’s almost brand new territory for everyone!
I think that, with all the shortcomings, this is the “one good thing in a series of bad” things that have happened to us, but only if and only if, after this crisis, knowledge is retained and continues to apply (and improve) at least part of online teaching and evaluation! I think it is now clear to everyone that a hybrid model of teaching is needed in the future, some of which would take place in the building of the institution (school/faculty), and some online. Some of the long-set goals, eg to hold classes in one shift only, to work on problem and project tasks with as few facts as possible, to have as many “experiential” classes and practical applications as possible (where and when possible). Otherwise, if that doesn’t happen – then we can say that all this effort (and sacrifice) – of everyone involved in online teaching – is in vain!
To all who prepare and hold “Distance Learning”, and students, I wish a lot of motivation, perseverance, effort, but also happiness and a little fun, Also I suggest to parents to be patient and help their children, as best they can!